So, three years ago I sat down to watch Love, Actually to see what all the hype was about. I was honestly expecting a nice, enjoyable, Christmas-y film. Instead, I was absolutely horrified. The film is a male chauvinist’s dreamland. A bunch of middle-aged men hook up with women 20 years younger than them (all of which are secretaries/maids/tea brandishing assistants), infidelity is excused and even celebrated, and the female characters are punished for being nice while the male characters do not suffer the consequences of being…not so nice. What is so romantic about this film, exactly??? Thanks to Internet magic, I found a commentary by a likeminded blogger, which I chunk-quoted and linked below. (P.S. If you DO actually love Love Actually, please do not send me hate mail/spam comments. Thanks.)
“…I discovered that “Love, Actually” is instead one of cinema’s nastiest, most depressing commentaries ever on “love,” wrapped up like a velvet box from goddamn Kay Jewelers. Well, you never fooled me, “Love, Actually.” I don’t mind lighthearted holiday twaddle; I just don’t like demoralizing, misogynistic holiday twaddle.
With the exception of Bill Nighy’s witty plotline about an aging pop star’s attempt to secure the coveted Christmas No. 1 hit, every one of the 85 other stories in the movie involves some horrible lesson out of the battle of the sexes playbook. If you were an alien watching “Love, Actually,” you would come to the conclusion that what human British men really, really want are hot chicks who fetch them tea, put up with their dalliances, and don’t speak English.
Which of the many story lines is most likely to make a reasonable human want to get drunk on lighter fluid? There’s Colin Firth’s – the one about a man who, betrayed by his cheating girlfriend, flees the country and immediately falls for his mug-brandishing Portuguese housekeeper. So pretty! So uncommunicative! And she has hot beverages! See also: the Hugh Grant story line, in which the prime minister falls for the assistant who brings him tea. Seriously, what is with you dudes? Do you not know how to boil water?
There’s also the Alan Rickman story line, about the married man tempted by the unbelievably predatory secretary, and the heartbroken wife (Emma Thompson) faced with the choice to “stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse.” There’s the Laura Linney one, about the noble woman who can’t be with the man she loves because she has to care for her mentally ill brother. And doesn’t that make an interesting contrast to the Liam Neeson plot, in which a very recent widower is rewarded for his emotional pain by hooking up with Claudia Schiffer. Claudia Schiffer!! There’s also Kris Marshall’s, in which a lonely, goofy-looking Brit flies to America to dazzle the ladies solely on the basis of his Britishness – and immediately scores a pile of insanely hot babes. And yet they call crap like this a “chick flick.” I’ve seen less depressing Michael Haneke movies.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another movie – holiday or otherwise – that makes the case so convincingly for how miserable the lives of women truly are, and how all fired up awesome it is to be a man. A manly man who loves tea. And that’s one big holiday lump of sexist coal that stinks, actually.”
–Mary Elizabeth Williams
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.